Tuesday, 6 Jun 2023

Liz Truss to reinforce Iron Lady image with trip to Russia despite escalating war fears

Liz Truss is a 'freedom-loving Thatcherite' says Kirsty Buchanan

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The RIA news agency, citing information provided by a diplomatic source, said on Saturday that the Foreign Secretary will make the trip to Moscow in February for negotiations with Sergei Lavrov, Ms Truss’s counterpart under Vladimir Putin’s government. The source added: “The British foreign minister has asked for the opportunity to travel to Moscow for talks with Lavrov. Moscow has agreed for the visit in February.”

This comes as US-Russian talks in Geneva this week once again failed to make any progress between the Russian Federation and the countries of the West, which are keeping an anxious eye on Russian military build-up on the Ukrainian border.

Tobias Ellwood, chair of the Commons Defence Select Committee, warned on Saturday that the UK needed to do more to support Ukraine against an “imminent” invasion.

He told the BBC Mr Putin was “taking full advantage of a weakened West”, and that because the Russian president was “redrawing the map of eastern Europe”, it was “so important that we step forward”.

Mr Ellwood added he was “pleased” the UK had committed to supplying Ukraine with extra weaponry and troops for training.

Ms Truss, in a pointed speech in Sydney this week, issued a number of warnings to Mr Putin that harked back to the hardline rhetoric of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher against the Soviet Union.

The Foreign Secretary warned Mr Putin that a Russian invasion of Ukraine would result in a comparable loss of life to when the USSR took over Afghanistan during the Eighties.

Ms Truss then accused Mr Putin of trying to glue back together the collapsed Soviet Union.

Ms Truss called any possible invasion “a massive strategic mistake” and warned the Kremlin to learn “the lessons of history”.

She said of the Russian leadership: “They dream of recreating the Soviet Union, or a kind of greater Russia, carving up territory based on ethnicity and language.

“They claim they want stability while they work to threaten and destabilise others.”

While at once urging President Putin to “desist and step back from Ukraine”, she reiterated the importance of UK ties with NATO and countries like Australia.

She added an invasion could “only lead to a terrible quagmire and loss of life, as we know from the Soviet-Afghan war and conflict in Chechnya”.

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In the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union, Chechnya broke away from the influence of the Kremlin and declared itself independent – a move that prompted a Russian invasion in 1994.

Ms Truss, addressing a G7 congregation, told delegates that the UK and its allies were ready to respond to a Russian invasion with harsh sanctions.

She said: “We are very clear, together with our allies in the G7, with our allies in NATO, that if there is an incursion by Russia into Ukraine, it would come at a massive cost.

“We are prepared to put very severe sanctions in place.”

Confrontational rhetoric was familiar to the Prime Minister known as the Iron Lady – a nickname attributed to the Conservative leader by a Soviet publication in a jab intended to be a criticism.

Like Ms Truss has proven to be of today’s Russia, Mrs Thatcher was a steadfast critic of the Soviet Union and the Kremlin’s domination in eastern Europe.

The UK and NATO have not been receptive to Russia’s demands that Ukraine is not admitted as a member of NATO, nor that NATO activities do not move further eastward.

Mr Putin has also denied any intention of invading Ukraine, but intelligence reports suggest Russia has around 100,000 troops stationed at the border.

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